Swadesh list

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A Swadesh list is a prescribed list of basic vocabulary developed by Morris Swadesh in the 1940-50s, which is used in glottochronology (lexicostatistical dating).

Usage in glottochronology[Mudifega | mudìfica 'l sorgènt]

The Swadesh word list is used in glottochronology to determine the approximate date of first separation of genetically related languages. The closeness of the relationship of the languages is suggested to be roughly proportional to the number of cognate words present in the list. The reason that a fixed set of concepts is used, rather than a list of arbitrary words, is that the basic vocabulary learned during early childhood is assumed to change very slowly over time. Note that the task of counting the number of cognate words in the list is far from trivial, and may be subjected to dispute, because cognates do not necessarily look similar, and recognition of cognates presupposes knowledge of the sound laws of the respective languages. For example, English 'wheel' and Hindi 'cakra' are cognates, although they are not recognizable as such without knowledge of the history of both languages. Also, even in cases where the number of cognates is undisputed, use of Swadesh lists for dating is disputed, because of the underlying assumption that the rate of replacement of basic vocabulary is constant over long periods of time. While Swadesh lists are a useful tool to get a rough idea, mainstream historical linguistics is usually very sceptical about claims of relatedness based on Swadesh lists exclusively.

The use of Swadesh lists in glottochronology was most popular during the 1960s and 1970s, after which enthusiasm waned and the discussion of the method's merit became emotional, leading to a temporary demise of the method. Refinements since the early 1970s include the incorporation of a geographical dimension into the equations, accounting for borrowing. A recent example of the use of Swadesh lists for absolute dating is the study of Gray and Atkinson (2003), calculating a tree of Indo-European languages with absolute dates for its nodes, using Bayesian principles, dating the Proto-Indo-European language to ca. 7000 BC (see Indo-Hittite). The study is based on Swadesh lists of modern Indo-European languages (and three extinct languages). Although Gray and Atkinson's result is not widely accepted, further refinement of their approach represents a potentially important source of evidence for historical linguistics.

Whilst the use of the Swadesh list for absolute dating remains controversial, it has gained popularity in the field of translation in defining core concepts that are universal to all human languages.

External links[Mudifega | mudìfica 'l sorgènt]

References[Mudifega | mudìfica 'l sorgènt]

  • Gray, Russell D.; & Atkinson, Quentin D. Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin, Nature, 426. (Online: http://www.psych.auckland.ac.nz/psych/research/Evolution/Gray&Atkinson2003.pdf).
  • Gudschinsky, Sarah. (1956). The ABC's of lexicostatistics (glottochronology). Word, 12, 175-210.
  • Hoijer, Harry. (1956). Lexicostatistics: A critique. Language, 32, 49-60.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1950). Salish internal relationships. International Journal of American Linguistics, 16, 157-167.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1952). Lexicostatistic dating of prehistoric ethnic contacts. Proceedings American Philosophical Society, 96, 452-463.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1955). Towards greater accuracy in lexicostatistic dating. International Journal of American Linguistics, 21, 121-137.
  • Swadesh, Morris (1972). What is glottochronology? In M. Swadesh, The origin and diversification of languages (pp. 271–284). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Swadesh list in English[Mudifega | mudìfica 'l sorgènt]

Below is the Swadesh list of 207 words in the English language. For a Swadesh list that compares English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Esperanto, Swedish, and Latin (with links to other lists in other languages) use this link: Wiktionary:Swadesh list.

  1. I
  2. you (singular)
  3. he
  4. we
  5. you (plural)
  6. they
  7. this
  8. that
  9. here
  10. there
  11. who
  12. what
  13. where
  14. when
  15. how
  16. not
  17. all
  18. many
  19. some
  20. few
  21. other
  22. one
  23. two
  24. three
  25. four
  26. five
  27. big
  28. long
  29. wide
  30. thick
  31. heavy
  32. small
  33. short
  34. narrow
  35. thin
  36. woman
  37. man (adult male)
  38. man (human being)
  39. child
  40. wife
  41. husband
  42. mother
  43. father
  44. animal
  45. fish
  46. bird
  47. dog
  48. louse
  49. snake
  50. worm
  51. tree
  52. forest
  53. stick
  54. fruit
  55. seed
  56. leaf
  57. root
  58. bark
  59. flower
  60. grass
  61. rope
  62. skin
  63. meat
  64. blood
  65. bone
  66. fat (n.)
  67. egg
  68. horn
  69. tail
  70. feather
  71. hair
  72. head
  73. ear
  74. eye
  75. nose
  76. mouth
  77. tooth
  78. tongue
  79. fingernail
  80. foot
  81. leg
  82. knee
  83. hand
  84. wing
  85. belly
  86. guts
  87. neck
  88. back
  89. breast
  90. heart
  91. liver
  92. drink
  93. eat
  94. bite
  95. suck
  96. spit
  97. vomit
  98. blow
  99. breathe
  100. laugh
  101. see
  102. hear
  103. know
  104. think
  105. smell
  106. fear
  107. sleep
  108. live
  109. die
  110. kill
  111. fight
  112. hunt
  113. hit
  114. cut
  115. split
  116. stab
  117. scratch
  118. dig
  119. swim
  120. fly (v.)
  121. walk
  122. come
  123. lie
  124. sit
  125. stand
  126. turn
  127. fall
  128. give
  129. hold
  130. squeeze
  131. rub
  132. wash
  133. wipe
  134. pull
  135. push
  136. throw
  137. tie
  138. sew
  139. count
  140. say
  141. sing
  142. play
  143. float
  144. flow
  145. freeze
  146. swell
  147. sun
  148. moon
  149. star
  150. water
  151. rain
  152. river
  153. lake
  154. sea
  155. salt
  156. stone
  157. sand
  158. dust
  159. earth
  160. cloud
  161. fog
  162. sky
  163. wind
  164. snow
  165. ice
  166. smoke
  167. fire
  168. ashes
  169. burn
  170. road
  171. mountain
  172. red
  173. green
  174. yellow
  175. white
  176. black
  177. night
  178. day
  179. year
  180. warm
  181. cold
  182. full
  183. new
  184. old
  185. good
  186. bad
  187. rotten
  188. dirty
  189. straight
  190. round
  191. sharp
  192. dull
  193. smooth
  194. wet
  195. dry
  196. correct
  197. near
  198. far
  199. right
  200. left
  201. at
  202. in
  203. with
  204. and
  205. if
  206. because
  207. name

See also[Mudifega | mudìfica 'l sorgènt]

Mudel:Swadesh lists Quenya Swadesh list